Movie Review, February, 2011
Today’s Special is an indie, Indian foodie movie just right if you’re in the mood for a light bite with a touch more spice than the typical Hollywood film. It is co-written and stars Aasif Mondvi from the Daily Show who also wrote and starred in the one-act Obie Award winning play, Sakina’s Restaurant on which the film is based.
Mondvi plays Samir, an up and coming sous chef in a trendy Manhattan restaurant (if you see it through his eyes) or an adequate cook’s assistant who lacks the creative talent and spark to make it as a first-rate chef (his boss’s view). Samir has big ideas though and stubbornly quits in pursuit of an apprenticeship with a hot shit chef in Paris. His very traditional parents are crushed…
You are quitting a successful job as a chef in NY to go to Paris and work for free?
Family circumstances get in the way however and Samir’s career takes an unexpected turn as he takes over the family’s failing greasy spoon restaurant in Queens and tries to reinvent it. He gets help from Akbar, a NYC cabbie but formerly a chef in India who used to cook for Indira Ghandhi, played brilliantly by popular Indian actor, Naseeruddin Shah. He teaches Samir how to break out and cook from his heart without being imprisoned by traditional recipes. Emotional support and inspiration is also provided by Carrie, (Jess Weixler) a young woman he used to supervise at the NY restaurant.
Additional quality supporting roles are contributed by Madhur Jaffrey (established actress and coincidently bestselling author on Indian Cooking) who plays Samir’s over protective mother, Harish Patel who plays his demanding father, and Dean Winters as his boss.
For 99 minutes we shadow Samir on his frenetic journey for creative fulfillment with its hairpin twists and curves. We begin inside the kitchen of a thriving gourmet Manhattan restaurant for a rare glimpse at the chaos and manic frenzy behind artistic haute cuisine and just as rapidly find ourselves slaughtering live chickens in less than sanitary conditions in a Jackson Heights Indian restaurant on the verge of bankruptcy. Samir discovers the ingredients needed for his happiness are not easily measured but that creative manipulation of traditional spices can lead to a very happy meal indeed.
For a Daily Show interview with Aasif Mondvi click on the link below: